Hill repeats, exploding tires

Posted by SuperClydesdale on July 19, 2011 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

I did something last week that is rare for me — rare because it can be incredibly unpleasant and downright unhealthy.   No, I didn’t watch a Michael Moore film.

I did hill repeats, in 94+ degree weather.   I think that I might have to check into a mental health facility to see if I represent a danger to myself or others.   Clearly, a 240-pounder doing hill repeats in 90-degree-plus weather should rightfully have his head examined.    Here’s the kicker:   I did them two days in a row.  I think that proves my mental defect.

I have a reasonably steep hill 1.1 miles from my house.   It’s about a half mile long, and averages 7%.  Not a ball-buster by local standards, but a challenge.   It always is like a kick to the groin when I start out on a ride from my house.   Minutes into a training ride, and I have to climb a half-mile-long 7% grade.   Whenever  I have friends over for a ride, they usually are groaning – “not warmed up!”

It was warm, but with the full heat of summer approaching, I need to start acclimating myself to riding in the heat.  I figured, with the hill so close to my house, should I start overheating, I can get home without much additional climbing.   Where my house sits, if I go more than a mile in any direction, I get into some serious climbing.   I didn’t want to push myself to the brink of exhaustion in 90+ degree weather, then have to limp home over some long climbs.

A general rule for Clydesdales is to avoid riding in the peak heat of the day.   This is normally to avoid overheating – either to a truly unhealthful level, or to avoid, in medical terms “feeling like crap.”  Sometimes, after concluding a ride in the heat of the day, I’m pretty much destroyed for the rest of the day.  Even a dip in the pool, while satisfying, will not restore a very high energy level.

On the first day, I learned a few valuable lessons:

  • Always carry your phone
  • Always carry a tube and a pump
  • Don’t use your brakes too much on a hot day
  • A new addition to the ride gear: oven mitts

Based on my “lessons learned” from these rides, the astute reader might be catching a glimpse of my experience.

My goal is a quick ride (less than an hour) with at least 2000 feet of climb.

I know that I need to moderate my pace so that I don’t explode, or create an issue in the heat.  I’ve had to call my wife three times in the last 12 months to pick me up when I overheated by being too aggressive on the steep climbs.   I’ve learned to watch for my keys:  I go from roasting to goosebumps within minutes.   I stop sweating.    When that happens, I’m damaged.  I’m ruined for the day.  Just go home, jump in the pool, and then I’m cooked – listless.  I feel like I’ve just donated half my blood.

So now, I watch for the signs.  I have to guard against my impulse to go balls out on the climbs.  That’s early morning activity – not something a Clydesdale should be doing mid-day in the heat of summer.

I can hear my tiny riding companions, “but, Jack, everyone gets hot.  You just have to ride through it.”  Really?   Well polar bears get hot.  Then they die.  They are thick – like me.  The thicker you are, the more you retain the heat.    While we have more surface area, we also have much thicker cores.  So, it just retains the heat.

Anyway, the hill repeats…

Surprisingly, I am feeling good.  I am moderating the pace, but still getting up the hills at a good clip.   But, in my effort to be safe and sane in the heat, I am controlling my speed on the way down so as to give myself recovery time.   I figure if I take it easy, by the time I get to the bottom, I’ll have cooled down enough to go at it again, despite the heat.  It works.  I keep going, feeling pretty good.   I’ve actually never done that before:  braked on a descent.  I am a speed freak, using my relationship with gravity – it’s very fond of me – to go down as fast as possible.   I love speed.

So, I am being a good boy, riding the brakes, sacrificing all of the potential fun of the descent in order to keep cool .  Works great, for a while.  At the end of descent number 6, a deafening blast comes from my rear wheel.  My inner tube has exploded.

It was so loud, I wasn’t sure at first what had happened. I got of the bike to check the tire.   As I grabbed the tire to see if the side wall had been compromised, my forearm was seared when it contacted the metal braking surface of the rear wheel.  It was literally blistering hot.  I was amazed.   The friction from the braking had heated the rear wheel so much that it caused the rear tube to explode – luckily, the tire itself was undamaged.

I reach into my pocket to grab my phone.  No phone.   In my haste, I didn’t bring the phone – “hey, I’m only a mile away, no need for the damn phone!”

I realize also, no tube.   No pump.

I am going to be walking that 1.1 mile home – on the carbon fiber soles of my road shoes.  Stupid.  But, I grew up in Las Vegas.    I have walked many a mile in my bare feet after flatting, and ended up with massive blisters on the bottom of my feet.  I will take the chance of trashing the shoes.

That was about the longest 1.1-mile walk I’ve ever done.

When I got home, I take of the tire and find that there’s a 4-inch-long gash in the tube.  No patch kit could have possibly fixed that.   I try to always carry a spare tube as well as a patch kit, and the tube would have been the only thing that would have saved me on this day.  Luckily I was only 1.1 miles away.  Any further, and I would have been forced to hitch hike home.

The exploding tire incident adds further support for the Clydesdale rule of no hill repeats in 90+ degree weather (or even in milder weather in mid-day).  If the heat doesn’t kill you directly, a blown out tire on a descent just might.

I think I need disc brakes on my road bike.  Or, lobby the county to put in runaway cyclist ramps on all major cycling routes.

Or, better yet, just stop braking on descents.  It’s unnecessary, and sucks the fun out of the ride anyway.   I need to let gravity do its thing — embrace it — feel the love.

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